Sports
Winnipeg minor hockey league probes 'fighting practice' allegation

Peter Woods, Hockey Manitoba's executive director.

Credits: ROSS ROMANIUK/QMI AGENCY

ROSS ROMANIUK | QMI AGENCY

WINNIPEG -- Minor hockey officials are probing an allegation that a St. Vital coach told his team of teenaged boys how to fight on the ice and one player suffered a concussion as a result.

Hockey Winnipeg and the St. Vital Minor Hockey Association are trying to determine whether there's truth to an accusation that at a recent Norberry-Glenlee Knights midget A-1 team practice, all players -- aged 16 and 17 - took part in the fighting drill.

"Hopefully, it's unfounded. If it isn't, it would be troubling," Peter Woods, executive director of Hockey Manitoba, told QMI Agency on Thursday of the allegation made in a letter from a player's parent.

It's alleged the coach had several of his players fight while instructing them on how to hit opponents with uppercuts, rather than directly into helmet masks.

Woods couldn't confirm that a player suffered a concussion during the alleged combat lesson, which is said to have happened "within probably the last week."

He noted fighting among players is prohibited in Manitoba minor hockey.

"If you're playing junior hockey, you would qualify for that," he said. "But not in minor hockey."

If a coach is found to have told his players to fight and instructed them, however, Woods added it takes the problem to "a whole different level" of improper conduct and could lead to a stiff penalty.

"It could be wide-ranging, to dismissal. There could be a reprimand."

He said it's up to Hockey Winnipeg and the St. Vital association to investigate and, if warranted, decide on penalties for coaches and/or players involved.

"That's not the type of direction you want to be providing to your players," he said.

Under the provincial association's regulations, Woods said, a player in the minor system who fights on the ice is suspended for one game for a first incident, two games for a second and three games for a third -- in addition to a possible indefinite suspension pending a review.

He noted Hockey Manitoba is "monitoring" the investigation, but not directly involved.

St. Vital hockey directors were reportedly planning to discuss the matter Thursday evening, possibly with several of the players. Officials with the team and the St. Vital association could not be reached for comment, while Hockey Winnipeg president Don McIntosh did not return a phone call.

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